[whatwg] Passing more than JSON data to workers

Drew Wilson atwilson at google.com
Wed Dec 16 10:33:23 PST 2009

I'm not certain what a "deep copy" of the function means - would you need to
copy the entire lexical scope of the function? For example, let's say you do

var foo = 1;

function setFoo(val) { foo = val; }
function getFoo() { return foo; }


foo = 2;

Then, from worker code, I call the copy of getFoo() - what should it return
(undefined? Does it pull over a copy of foo from the original lexical scope,
in which case it's 1)? What if foo is defined in a lexical closure that is
shared by both setFoo() and getFoo() - it seems like the separate copies of
setFoo() and getFoo() passed to the worker would need to reconstruct a
shared closure on the worker side, which seems difficult if not impossible.

I think that some variant of data URLs and/or eval() gets you most of what
you really need here without requiring extensive JS VM gymnastics.


On Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 9:23 AM, Jan Fabry <jan.fabry at monkeyman.be> wrote:

> Hello,
> Has it been considered to pass more than JSON data to workers? I could not
> find a rationale behind this in the FAQ, or in other places I looked. I
> understand the need for separation because of concurrency issues, but aren't
> there other ways to accomplish this?
> (The following text was already posted to the forum, but "zcorpan"
> suggested I also post it here)
> [ http://forums.whatwg.org/viewtopic.php?t=4185 ]
> I am not a Javascript VM developer, so if the following does not make
> sense, please don't be too hard on me. A reply of "Sorry, we thought about
> this longer than you did, and there are still cases where this is
> impossible" is perfectly valid, but the more I can learn from this
> conversation, the better.
> Would it be possible to do a deep copy of the function (object) you pass to
> the the constructor? So copy everything (or mark it for copy-on-write), but
> remove references to DOM elements if they exist. This way, I think you can
> create a parallel data structure, so the original one remains untouched
> (avoiding concurrency issues).
> The important difference between this and the usual JSON-serializing of
> objects that the examples talk about, is that functions can be passed
> through too in an easy manner. If you have to simulate this using only
> Javascript, you have to somehow bind the free variables, which requires some
> introspection, and thus is not easy (if even possible?) to simulate in "user
> space".
> The Google Gears API seems to provide both createWorker(scriptText) and
> createWorkerFromUrl(scriptUrl). Why was only the URL variant retained in the
> Web Workers spec? With the script variant, there would have been at least a
> little basis for more dynamic programming.
> Greetings,
> Jan Fabry
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